Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 08 - I'm in freaking Mexico. Hola!

This morning I figured I’d load up El Nino, grab the freebie complimentary breakfast and roll out early. Yesterday I’d spotted a sign for Mexican insurance by the freeway and if it looked good I’d stop in and sign up, couldn’t take more than a few minutes and I’d be on my way. Wrong. Wrongo. Duh.  I ended up going to three different places, none of whom seemed like they were really into bike insurance. I even called AAA which was a real bust. Finally I stopped at the Holiday Inn Express in Nogales and marched in with my notebook in hand. There was a very nice young lady manning the front reception desk and I told her “I have to use the Internet, do you have the password?” She said “Sure” and wrote it on a slip for me. How nice; how convenient. So I parked my butt in one of their cushy lounge chairs and spent the next half hour signing up for an on-line overpriced policy.
Done with that I buzzed through the border thing and mixed it up with the sporty crowd Mexican drivers all of whom were trying to leave Nogales at the same time and none of whom can see bikers. Weird as HiViz yellow may look I was really glad I was wearing it.
Eventually the traffic began to diminish and I found I was traveling on the right route that would take me south to the immigration place where I could import El Nino and myself. There were lots of road signs warning drivers they had to stop and drop a few pesos before proceeding so finding the place was dead simple.

I locked up my jacket & helmet and strolled casually inside armed with all the required documents that I knew they would want. Thanks to the input and advice from ADVrider members I even knew what the order of events would be. 

So, being full of my well-prepared self I strolled manly-like up to the lone gal occupying the sign-in desk, said “Hola” which she returned and then boys and girls, she started speaking to me in Spanish. Wait a minute I thought, doesn’t she know I’m a gringo and "Hola" is the sum total of my Spanish vocabulary? Plus her command of English was even less than my Spanish but we were both saved when her boss walked in and volunteered to take over. 

I think he volunteered but there were a lot of squeaky sounds coming from the girl which may have had some bearing on his decision.  At least his English was excellent so things went a lot smoother from that point on.
El Nino's legal for six months now

Me too
Importing a vehicle into Mexico is a lot like getting something done in the military, lots of forms, plenty of lines to wait in, fees to pay – some of them really BIG – but gradually they tire of old gringos with no language skills and damn near deaf to boot. Making someone repeat every single sentence four or five times actually helps expedite things as they get so frustrated all they want is for you to go away. I kind of like to stand there with a silly grin on my face nodding my head no matter what they say but as soon as I detect a tone of questioning which usually indicates a choice of something is required I ask them to clarify. In English I ask this. Which often brings out the furrowed eyebrows.

Finally it was all finished but before leaving I walked around and personally thanked every one of the clerks who’d dealt with me. Only one spoke English and he gave me a big smile and said something in Spanish, probably like “Ride safe and enjoy your visit to our country my friend.” Or maybe not.

So there I was blazing down the roads of Mexico enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and warm  summer-like temps. This morning I figured it was going to get hot as hell later in the day so I wore my lightweight hiking pants, the ones that have zip-off legs, and a super-light T-shirt from REI, purveyors of overpriced feel-good silly gear. It all seemed to work though as I stayed cool under the big yellow HiViz tent I was wearing. I’m sure people think I’m burning up from the looks of it but it’s really comfortable.
I had set the GPS destination for Hermosillo, a fairly big town and far enough away I knew I wouldn’t make after such a late afternoon start. This system tends to make it easier to deal with the dumb lady who lives inside the device as she thinks we’re really going somewhere, plus if I divert a little she knows how to get me back on track without having to be reprogrammed.

At one point I came to a toll road which I hadn’t planned on and as I had zero pesos and all the prices were in that other language I pulled over to scope things out. Since there are no money exchange options at those locations I decided how could she refuse good ol’ American greenbacks so I pulled back into line and went through the process of explaining. One thing I’ve learned over the years is toll booth operators really don’t want you hanging around chatting it up, at least most of them don’t so she was willing to break a twenty and give me change in pesos. I haven’t a clue what that toll cost and I don’t care, I got some change back didn't I?
The really fun part of the whole deal occurred after I went through; I spotted a place to pull over which I did as I’d just shoved the pesos into my tank bag and moved off without zipping it up. About the time I had it secured I noticed movement next to me and sure enough it was a guy eyeballing the loot. Have you ever noticed how easily panhandlers the world over are able to make their needs known to the mark? 

This guy was no different but instead of shooing him away I asked him where the nearest hotel might be. Now the fun began, he somehow recognized the word hotel and proceeded to tell me. In very rapid Spanish of course, including lots of hand gestures to simulate driving downhill around sweeping corners and eventually indicating if I would look up to my left I’d see it. I gave him a buck. Hey, I needed the pesos for myself; he probably knows how to spend dollars. He said thank you anyway. Hey, did he say that in English or am I beginning to speak Spanish?
A few clicks further up the road I saw a hotel off to my left, the very one I’m writing this report in. Checking into this place was a hoot; the poor guy at the desk speaks zero English so we spent a fun-filled twenty minutes getting things done. Actually the check in part was easy, it was the deposit on the TV remote and the room key that turned into a Laugh-In episode. We were both getting a bit hysterical by the time it all got figured out but it eventually it ended.

My room is, well, inexpensive I guess you could say. I’m ok with it, there’s a bed, the toilet works,  it has an air conditioner that I had to turn off as it was getting too cold; there’s even a couple of lights that work. All the comforts of home plus it’s clean. I sort of wish the closet thing had hangers though. Oh, and the hill with the long sweeper you go down that terminates about where the motel is? Truckers seem to love it; gives ‘em a chance to play with their Jake brakes.

                                                                     Nice pins Dude....

Nice closet but no hangers...eww
Besides the motel being here there is a restaurant next to it so I wandered over to see what they were serving for dinner. Turned out to be a Chinese restaurant without a Chinese person anywhere on the premises; maybe even within a hundred clicks.  

I ordered B with a big diet coke

I missed this. Simply stated it says No Plastic. More greenbacks. Dinner was $8.50

I was seated by a guy who is probably the manager and he was followed by a kid who looked to be in his teens, most likely the manager’s son. When he spoke to me and I responded in English he freaked and disappeared behind a false wall where he more or less remained the whole time I was there. The manager took my order and when it was ready he had his little girl deliver it to my table. That was pretty cool since she seemed to have more on the ball than her older brother.
The food was ok and there was lots of it so I had to leave half. Sorry all you starving kids in China but I ain’t riding around with day old Chinese food in my tank bag in this heat.
Back in my room I decided it was time to give my new SteriPen from REI its first workout. I expect all of you have one but this is a new trick gadget for me, sterilizes drinking water at the rate of one liter per minute and the end product doesn't taste funny. Sort of sterile but not funny and you don’t have to worry about getting Titdikaka or whatever you get from drinking water that houses leeches, etc. It worked really easy and when the minute was up a little light came on plus a smiley face appeared on the display. Makes it safe to drink Mexican water any time anywhere.

So that’s it kiddies, I finally made it past the border confusion and I’m feeling like I’m in Mexico at last. See ya tamale…

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